Directors of Chennai-based animation studio Saffronic share their collective vision for artists

Lots of animated shows and cartoons! That’s what this studio is passionate about.

Based in the Indian city of Chennai, Saffronic is a young animation studio led by industry veterans Prabhakar Sambandan and Kumar Chandrasekaran, which embarked on its operations in June 2022.

Saffronic operates as part of the US agency Saffronic, specialising in animation and gaming. As a subsidiary of the Born Group (a global creative and innovation agency that helps brands with digital transformation), which Tech Mahindra acquired in 2019, Saffronic has facilitated Tech Mahindra’s entry into the animation space.

Prabhakar Sambandan

Kumar explained that the Indian branch of Saffronic offers comprehensive services from CG and VFX to real time engine-oriented work. The studio is currently working on animation and VFX projects (shows and feature films) from DreamWorks, WildBrain and Trioscope – all of these, its first. Kumar emphasises their commitment to delivering quality, saying, “We say yes only when we are sure we can deliver with the quality which we are comfortable committing to. It’s never about saying yes and figuring it out later. So if it requires us to say no, we do say no; because commitment is a commitment.”

The co-founders of Saffronic in Los Angeles, USA – Tim Sarnoff and Vince Pizzica – drive the strategy, client relationship and the overall leadership of the organisation. And recently, LA-based Kristy Scanlan joined India’s studio as its business development senior vice president. Prabhakar and Kumar handle all the operations in India.

Kumar Chandrasekaran

With his extensive experience, Prabhakar has played a significant role in helping Nickelodeon and DreamWorks TV gain a foothold in India. He has produced more than 45 episodic television series from assets to animation, for major studios such as DreamWorks Television, Netflix, Nickelodeon, Disney, Method Films, and Brown Bag. A fan of SpongeBob SquarePants and Barbapapa: One Big Happy Family! – Prabhakar has delivered shows like Mickey Mouse Club House, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Fast & Furious, All Hail King Julien, Sponge Bob, We Dragons, Robert and Monster and Star Trek Prodigy, and films such as Puss in Boots, Boss Baby and Kung Fu Panda. Kumar, on the other hand, has worked extensively on episodic production, AAA game titles, and features. He loves watching Family Guy and South Park, and has worked on notable shows like Mickey and the Roadster Racers with Disney, How To Train Your Dragon with DreamWorks, and Alvin and the Chipmunks with Bagdasarian Productions. Additionally, he has worked on game titles like FIFA for Electronic Arts, Assassins Creed for Ubisoft, Call of Duty: Black Ops and other editions for Activision, Grand Theft Auto for Rockstar Games. Besides, he has worked with 2K Games, Technicolor, WildBrain and many more studios.

Despite their industry experience, Kumar acknowledges that starting anew is still a challenging endeavour. He shared, “The past experience obviously gives you confidence but you still have to do things all over again. Just because you have done it in the past, that doesn’t guarantee you any sort of success.” You carry the learnings, the experience and the confidence and “you hope to do it right,” he stated. The studio directors have built a team of around 220 employees at Saffronic in this short span of time.

Understanding their artists’ needs from years of industry experience, Saffronic fosters a creatively charged work environment. The studio conducts workshops and sessions on various topics such as clay modelling, acting, caricature, lighting and more, facilitated by their own employees. Recently, a team from Unreal Engine took a two to three weeks training program at the studio. “This is a passionate industry, and we want to create the passion among the artists,” said Prabhakar. “We have created a forum for them to make sure they share that knowledge. Team bonding is really important for us. We want to ensure that we provide that environment and maintain that culture for them – by the artists, for the artists.”

Regarding IP creation, Kumar stated that it is not their current focus but added, “It’s a creative studio. People come up with ideas all the time. We never know which idea is going to spawn off into a show or something else. So we keep our minds and ears totally open.”

In-house sessions at Saffronic

Saffronic has created space for itself in the metaverse segment as well. The Chennai facility is the creative partner of Tech Mahindra’s metaverse division TechMVerse, generating content for their metaverse world.

Kumar and Prabhakar want to maintain a space which is happy, where artists are able to creatively express themselves, and feel proud about the content they are creating. Saffronic’s vision is “to be a creative, robust and reliable production partner that has the fluidity and nimbleness to produce impactful and meaningful content in the feature films, TV series, gaming and tech industries,” the directors said.

“This is not an individual goal, it’s something we as a team believe in,” Kumar shared. “What we are doing is making cartoons. We’re trying to put smiles on people’s faces. So at the end of the day, we need to be happy with what we are doing.”

Over the next five years, Prabhakar hopes to “elevate Saffronic across the international market and expand to various locations.” Kumar added, “The future plan is to continue working on the vision of Saffronic and ensure we stay true to our mantra of by the artist, for the artist.”

With a focus on artist empowerment and a commitment to excellence, Saffronic aims to leave a lasting impression on audiences worldwide.